Consultants: 34,000-square foot hospital possible at cost of $16 million

© 2018-Sublette Examiner

SUBLETTE COUNTY – Pinedale would be the best site for a Critical Access Hospital serving Sublette County, and a 34,000-square-foot facility could open its doors in three years if construction began soon.

Those were some of the chief points that came out of three days of strategic planning sessions this past Thursday through Saturday in Pinedale and Marbleton at which consultants met with stakeholders and interested members of the public.

The firms of Dougherty Mortgage, Neenan Archistruction Co. and financial consultant BKD are studying the proposed Critical Access Hospital for the Sublette County Rural Health Care District probably will make their final report to the district’s Board of Trustees the first week of October during a special board meeting.

But in the meantime, here’s some of what consultants and stakeholders are talking about after three days of meetings on the topic in Pinedale and Marbleton.

A 34,000-square-foot facility with five private patient rooms would be able to cover a lot of the needs Sublette County. The cost is estimated at $467 a square foot, or just under $16 million for actual construction. If work began soon, doors would open in about three years, said Scott Scherbel, vice chair of the district’s board of trustees. Actual construction would take 14 to 18 months.

The hospital would include surgical facilities and labs, radiology equipment to do x-rays and CT scans, as well rehabilitation facilities – all additions intended to keep more of the county’s health care spending close to home by providing some of the most needed services.

In a presentation Thursday, the opening day of the meetings, consultant Brian Haapala, senior vice president of Dougherty Mortgage LLC, said St. John’s Medical Center in Jackson is the main provider of inpatient services for Sublette County residents, capturing 38 percent of the market. Eastern Idaho Regional Medical Center in Idaho Falls provides 15 percent of inpatient services, and the University of Utah Hospital in Salt Lake City also provides 15 percent.

St. John’s Medical Center in Jackson would provide management services if a Critical Access Hospital is built in Pinedale. “We are definitely planning to be involved and want to collaborate with the health care district,” Michelle Kren, administrative director for St. John’s, said.

Consultants said several communities – Columbus and Deer Lodge in Montana, Holyoke and Granby in Colorado and Cambridge, Nebraska – serve populations similar in size to Sublette County with successful Critical Access Hospitals.

Currently, the Sublette County Rural Health Care District provides no rehabilitation services, no inpatient services, and no operating room procedures for the people of the county. It provides 36 percent of the lab procedures, 62 percent of the x-ray services, and 55 percent of CT scans county residents need. A Critical Access Hospital would be able to increase all those percentages so that area residents wouldn’t have to travel so far for services and more of their health care spending would stay in the county. Currently, area residents spend only 5 to 7 percent of their health care spending in the Pinedale or Marbleton clinics, Haapala said.

The Pinedale and Marbleton clinics wouldn’t go away if a Critical Access Hospital is built, but they could get better reimbursement. Federal rules would then allow the clinics to be certified as “rural health clinics,” meaning Medicare – an important part of the payer mix in health care – would reimburse them at cost instead of on a fee schedule, said Ann King White of consulting firm BKD.

About 50 people attended some of the opening sessions on the first day. The crowd appeared smaller on the second and third days.

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